Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Surprise in St. Cernin

As I was wandering around St. Cernin taking photos of its flamboyant bouquets of plastic flowers, I noticed that the church was open. I almost didn't go looked like just another plain, musty and dusty, old village church. But I wondered if a village that decorated with kitschy flowers might have something a bit unique in its church, so I climbed the steps and went in. I think 'Wow' sums up my expression of surprise! The church was a riotous melange of color and styles.

Its stained glass windows were abstract modern...

while the walls and pillars of the sanctuary were done in a style and in colors that were almost Art Deco.

The nave and the side chapels were beautifully painted to showcase a colorful statue of Christ with blessing hands.

The vaulted ceiling over the nave was resplendent with the restored  fresco paintings of Henri Petit. Petit was a Lotois artist who painted during the late 1800s. You can see more of his work in the church by clicking here.

As I craned my neck to take it all in and snap some photos, I  noticed an older woman standing in the pews. We struck up a conversation, and I learned that she was a nun on vacation in the area. She proudly told me that she was baptized in this church and that all her ancestors worshiped here over the ages. She had returned in pilgrimage to her roots in faith. While she lamented how much the village had changed from her childhood, she was also optimistic about its future since many of the old houses had been purchased by the English and other foreigners who were restoring them and living here at least part of the year. She was also optimistic about the church. It had been restored just the year before, she told me. It was so sad that it was no longer filled with worshipers, but perhaps with the restoration people would return to worship or just sit in its beauty to reflect or listen to music. I thought to myself that even though the 'style police' might not appreciate this church's somewhat gaudy restoration, others might find it a beautiful refuge of peace and quiet. We said goodbye, and I left the elderly nun to continue her prayers.

You just never know what you might find when you climb those old stone steps and push open the ancient wooden door of a village church in France.

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